Danelle Cutting: Frost was bad news to some

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 3, 2015

Just as spring was beginning and people were starting to work in their yards, we had a major frost that wreaked havoc on some of our growers. Some areas received a frost of 20 degrees, which is the temperature that can kill some cold hardy plants and flowers.

After the frost, we usually wait a few hours (72 or so) to see the damage. Sometimes, we have to wait a little longer to see the full injury. Being the horticulture and local food agent, I receive many exciting calls, but the ones I received after the frost were generally unfavorable. Some farmers lost everything they had, even under frost protective row covers.

For many peach growers, the 20-degree temperatures killed their blooms. The other side of the county lost about 30-40 percent of their blooms, which will help out on the thinning and labor costs. Frosts can be very tricky and sometimes can benefit one type of grower or another, but they are usually detrimental and unwelcome.

Since starting the broccoli trial at the Piedmont Research Station, we have been concerned about frost. The one we just had definitely gave us concern for our crop. One of our saving graces was that our broccoli was planted next to strawberries. The helpful part is that sometimes overhead irrigation is used to create a protective ice barrier. On Saturday and Sunday, this method was used from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m., which created an ice capsule around the plants.

The ice created insulation to help protect it against the damaging 20-degree weather. Our group decided to wait a few days and visit the station on Tuesday of this week to see how things had faired. To our surprise, the plants survived and seemed to be doing quite well.

We were lucky and appreciative to the staff of the Piedmont Research Station in this matter; there were some long nights that the crew put in with little sleep. Many farmers also had late nights checking on their plants and greenhouses, one reason that makes farming a difficult and stressful job.

For my article this week, I thought some of the reading audience would enjoy seeing frost techniques in action. The photos show ice encapsulating the broccoli and how the broccoli looks today.

We are hoping the worst is over but have to keep in mind that the last frost date is around April 15.

If you would like more information on frost protection, broccoli trials or growing your own fruits and vegetables, contact your local Cooperative Extension agent, Danelle Cutting, at 704-216-8970.

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